Monday, October 18, 2010

Justice-hating freedom fighters?

Bob Vander Plaats is using a little spin to sell the idea behind his organization Iowa For Freedom. He is campaigning against the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who are up for retention because they were part of the unanimous 2009 decision that legalized gay marriage in the state. His outrage  against the justices is fueled by a belief that the courts overstepped their bounds with the ruling. Vander Plaats wants to punish the justices for their role in redefining marriage, which he deems as "judicial activism." Still, he says the campaign is about freedom, not marriage. The opportunity to vote out the justices may essentially be a "check and balance" on the courts, as Vander Plaats suggests. But he seems to ignore the larger system of checks and balances between the legislative, judicial and administrative branches of Iowa's government. An independent judiciary --- free to make interpretations of the state's laws and constitution --- is a vital part of that. He'd like the courts to restrain themselves from all that freedom and just base their rulings on laws the Legislature approves and governor signs. That rubber-stamp approach eliminates their role as a check and balance on the other branches of government. The group really only advocates greater freedom for one person: the governor. They'd like to reform Iowa's system for appointing justices by eliminating the commission that is central to the process. Instead, Iowa For Freedom says the governor alone should make the choice.